“Ushahidi” and 2008 Post Election Violence in Kenya

When post-election violence erupted in Kenya last year, the need to communicate and keep track of instances of real time violent behavior was vital from a human rights and reporting standpoint. Sometimes the only thing one can do is simply report what they see from the field. Recognizing this, a group of people banded together to create a system where people could send alerts of post-election unrest via cell phones, email and computers. The project is called “Ushahidi.”

According to the Ushahidi blog:

Ushahidi, which means “testimony” in Swahili, is a website that was developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout at the beginning of 2008.

More specifically, it works this way, as stated on the system’s web site:

The Ushahidi Engine is a platform that allows anyone to gather distributed data via SMS, email or web and visualize it on a map or timeline. Our goal is to create the simplest way of aggregating information from the public for use in crisis response.

Another description can be found here, posted shortly after the system was developed during the post-election crisis in Kenya last year.

Following its success in 2008, the system has gained international recognition with goals of its use expanding into other countries experiencing situations of crisis and unrest. (In December 2008, Al Jazeera tested Ushahidi in the Gaza strip.) A timeline of the system’s milestones and progression can be found here.

This is a fantastic example of how a group of inspired individuals and technology can make a huge contribution at a nationwide level.

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